National News
August 26,2018

Realising the dream of ‘Naya Pakistan’

Salman Bashir

The recent general elections in Pakistan were indicative of a politico-social sea-change. A societal evolution triggered by a new awareness and demolishing of old constrictive notions and mindsets that had kept this nation of 200 million entrapped in a post-colonial status quo.

In this sense Pakistan is perhaps the first Islamic country to transition to new paradigms of existence shaped by the welfare model originally conceived in Holy Prophet's state of Medina and later practiced in the West particularly in Scandinavia. The full credit of facilitating this transition undoubtedly goes to Imran Khan, who is the only leader that has made the noble governance precepts of Islam - a beacon for shaping Pakistan's destiny. This is a silent revolution of immense import for Pakistan and humanity at large. It enmeshes democratic governance with the true socio-economic aspirations of the people and gives it credence with a unique and very rare sincerity of purpose.

True the work has just started. Status quo has been challenged and has yet to be uprooted. Conceptual clarity and simplicity of thought will inform implementation with strict criteria and value code. The vast majority of analysts and critics continue in their disbelief of the magnitude of change. The old political guard and vested interest groups will mount a campaign to resist change. They fail to comprehend that the ordinary people especially the youth- a new generation- have moved on. It is no longer possible to recreate the past. The nation is euphoric and for the first time sees opportunity and hope for their aspirations being reflected in governance of the state.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's biggest handicap in implementing his agenda for change is the decrepit civil service. He recognizes the need for institutional reforms. This requires revisiting the rules of business and methods of work. Reducing the size of government and simplifying rules and procedures. There is still a lot of talent in the public service and in the society. He must allow the talented and honest to rise and to work the national agenda with a sense of purpose. The emphasis should be on producing results. Delivery in real time and not bureaucratic wranglings and paper pushing.

Technology is the answer. Much of the stuff that ordinary citizens need from the government can be digitized. A governance style based on trusting individuals and punishing those who betray that trust must be the focus of endeavor. Performance audit must replace the ancient and completed outdated rule book of auditors that has paralysed governance and decision making.

Reform of the taxation system and the tax collector is of vital significance. The reform agenda must also encompass judiciary, where the Honorable Supreme Court is well placed to decree easy and speedy justice for all.

The very substantial philanthropic organizations must be given a free run for social rehabilitation and progress especially of the needy and poor. While corruption and accountability is good, time has come to move beyond these issues to restoring the credibility of state institutions, operationalize fair and effective governance and restore faith of the people in government. Not an easy task but then we have someone who has prioritized all this and more in Imran Khan. He is well aware of the requirements and should not allow himself to be distracted by the din and shrills of old style politicians who will not let him go forward and only earn lasting shame and infamy by using the parliament as an arena for creating ugly ruckus, as they have often done.

Pakistani expatriates must now step up to building the new Pakistan with their skills and contributions to economy, development and technology. It may be wise to begin listing the expertise by forming academies in various disciplines to identify the talent we have at home and abroad. Doctors, engineers, economists, scientists, academicians, artists, writers, scholars and more. They should be incentivised beyond patriotism by recognition and rewards for their contributions.

The trade deficit issue has only one solution. Optimize manufacturing, maximise exports and curtail expenses. Input costs should be reduced and the private sector facilitated in finding customers abroad.

The Foreign Ministry should be oriented to contributing to the nation's economic agenda. Opening of new markets closer home, transforming the geographic advantages to tangible assets, facilitating investments -all need priority. These would have to be reflected in policies that must be informed by strategic vision of a developed first world Pakistan by the year 2047- Pakistan's Independence Centenary.

(Writer served as Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary and Ambassador to Denmark, China and India)

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